Karin Klenke’s Women in Leadership offers a significant presence in the literature that underlines the continuing need to ask questions about why there remain relatively few women in leadership roles. Usefully, Klenke points to the criticality of 'context' , and the recognition that context is open to multiple interpretations. Klenke provides helpful summaries at the end of each chapter, drawing together the main trends, but also highlighting themes particular to that context, which might serve to provide a research agenda.
A key strength of the book lies in how it has marshalled a vast amount of information and colourful examples to show the positioning of women's leadership today. Klenke's voice, as a narrator of how things are, is reassuring and yet realistic; women are achieving leadership roles but an overriding message is that there is much work to be done.
The style of the book - moving between description and analysis, from facts and figures such as the number of women in particular professions to implications for women leaders drawing on conceptual frameworks - works well at a number of levels. First, it provides a useful overview for students and researchers of broad issues concerning women in leadership, which can be related to each of the chosen contexts and yet also have commonality across contexts . Second, in choosing breadth over depth the book encourages a 'dip in and out' approach that is particularly helpful for scholars who are seeking to gain an introduction to some key debates on women in leadership in a particular area. Third, and what I found of most value in this text, is that the breadth of scope and wealth of examples act as stimulus for multiple points of departure for further research both within and across the particular contexts described. As a leadership scholar, it is this richness that I have enjoyed, and the explication of multiple strands that positions women's leadership as fundamental and important work in the study of leadership.
I find that I feel energized and supported by this text, for it offers both a pragmatic assessment of women's leadership and an important further contribution to our developing understanding. In particular, this work reinforces the importance of understanding and developing an empirical database from a wide range of contexts grounded in women's experiences. I look forward to more work, which undoubtedly will result from the foundation that this book sets out.
Reviewed by: Valerie Stead, Lancaster University, UK
Leadership, 8(2) 199-202, 2012